The Spirit Moves

Langhorne Slim & the Law

(Digital Download - Dualtone Music #803020170667)

Review by Mark Deming

Ever since he released his first record, Langhorne Slim seems to have been searching for a sound that suits his emphatic yet introspective lyrical style and rootsy melodies, from the scrappy sitting-around-the-campfire mood of his 2005 debut When the Sun's Gone Down to the polished and cleanly orchestrated figures on 2009's Be Set Free. On his fifth full-length album, 2015's The Spirit Moves, Slim has finally recruited a full-time backing band, the Law, featuring David Moore on banjo and keyboards, Jeff Ratner on bass, and Malachi DeLorenzo on drums, and in many respects this makes for one of Langhorne Slim's most musically satisfying albums to date, delivering performances that are clever, taut, and intuitive but leave just enough space for Slim's impassioned vocals and elemental guitar work. Slim also had other valuable collaborators on The Spirit Moves -- producer Andrija Tokic has given these sessions just a light buff and polish that allows the details to stand out (and the sparing use of strings and horns gives the arrangements a soothing undertow without robbing the music of its organic tone and feeling), and songwriter Kenny Siegal collaborated with Slim on eight of the album's 12 songs, firming up the frameworks of the tunes while keeping Slim's essential lyrical and melodic personality firmly in place. As for Slim, he's still trying to sort out his troubles with life, love, and the world around him, but the unpretentiously intelligent outlook of his songs suggests he's a man whose navel gazing is not about just his own troubles, but the large-scale job of sorting out one man's place in a big world, and if he doesn't always have answers, at least he knows how to ask the right questions. Hopefully Langhorne Slim will have worked out a few of his deeper thoughts in his next album with the Law, but at very least The Spirit Moves sounds like a sure-footed step in the right direction.

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